Front and Center
This year the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Excellence Awards included a new category, the Central Station Support Person of the Year Excellence Award. This award recognizes the exceptional contributions of a support staff person, other than the central station manager or operator, who makes the central station a better place, perhaps a data entry staff member, a trainer, the IT guru, the tech that fixes everything, or the employee that keeps morale high.
The addition of that award really exemplifies the spirit of the awards, a commitment to recognizing individuals from every area of the monitoring industry who collectively generate the industry’s reputation of excellence and customer service.
The awards are designed to recognize any central station that is certified by one of the CSAA-recognized Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs). Applicants are not required to be CSAA members. The purpose of the awards is to promote the value of central station services, honor those who have made significant contributions to the industry and who promote the level of professionalism of UL listed central stations.
As CSAA and SDM, the awards sponsor, announced this year’s winners at a breakfast during the 2010 Electronic Security Expo (ESX) conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., every winner who walked up on the stage actually represented an entire company of people behind them, making it possible for them to win the award.
John Doyle, president and chief executive officer of Doyle Security Systems, the Central Station of the Year, recognizes the efforts of his entire staff necessary to win the award.
“This win was very much a team effort, and is a reflection of every single person on our team from the night-shift operators to the managers, and their commitment to excellence and to the customer,” Doyle acknowledges.
Greg Hurst, Central Station Manager of the Year, says, “I told the entire company upon winning that even though my name was listed on the trophy, it truly was a win for team Monitronics. Without all the things we accomplished as a team and the way we conduct business as a company, I would not have been able to be honored as the Manager of the Year.”
There’s a whole sea of people committed to excellence and service who are the monitoring industry, and the CSAA awards provides a chance for the examples of the industry at its best to take front and center for a moment.
As one of the anonymous judges describes it, “These awards really help to provide a special forum for those day-to-day performers to be recognized in a special way that can help propel the careers of those in the central station as they help to highlight the professionalism of those positions within that environment.”
Ed Bonifas, president of the CSAA commends all of the winners on their achievements.
“The electronic security monitoring industry should be very proud of the level of excellence and professionalism personified by the winners of the 2010 CSAA Central Station Excellence Awards,” Bonifas says. “The CSAA is proud to recognize the contributions made by these individuals and companies to the protection of life and property. We welcome them as they join the very few who have earned these prestigious awards.”
Central Station of the Year
A fourth-generation company, Doyle Security Systems isn’t resting on its laurels. It still strives to reach a higher level of excellence.
Central Station of the Year
Doyle Security Systems Inc.
Location: Rochester, N.Y.
Year Founded: 1919
Type of subscribers: Non-residential – 8,288*
Residential – 12,432*
* 2009 figures as reported on the May 2010 SDM 100.
Last year, when Doyle Security Systems Inc., Rochester, N.Y. was named the CSAA Central Station of the Year Honoree, Jim Quirin, chief financial officer and senior vice president of Doyle, boldly stated, “Next year we intend to win.” That’s just what the company did.
This award is another addition to a growing list of achievements that Doyle keeps compiling, including the CSAA Central Station Honoree in 2009, the 2008 Rochester Business Ethics award, the company president’s 2008 nomination by the Rochester Small Business Council as “Business Person of the Year” and the company’s 2008 win for the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Marketplace Excellence, all reflecting a company doing something very, very right.
Why all the awards? Doyle Security Systems, which has offices in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y., as well as in Erie, Pa., in addition to its CSAA Five Diamond certified and UL listed, fully staffed, 24/7, 365-days-a-year central station in Rochester, has been perfecting its business operations and customer service for a long time, serving the communities of upstate New York and northwest Pennsylvania since 1919. Despite its long history of success, it has an undying commitment to continually improve.
“We never rest,” John G. Doyle Jr., president and chief executive officer, says. “We always have this feeling that there is more to be done to get better, and an attitude of ‘It doesn’t matter where you are, it matters where you are going.’”
This central station focuses on continuous improvement through things like making outside visits to other central stations and identifying best practices; instituting a disciplined approach to operations which includes setting goals and then measuring and reviewing the station’s performance against those goals; focusing on customers and measuring their satisfaction; and extensively training and empowering its employees.
“Training is huge for us,” Doyle says. “We recognize that you have to give people the tools, and the right training is one of those tools.”
Comprehensive training of operators is geared to make Doyle’s employees not only feel knowledgeable but perform competently as well. Doyle Security Systems is committed to its Promise and Deliver (P & D) philosophy to take care of each customer every time. Employees are put through customer service training and empowered to do “whatever it takes” to assist customers and immediately resolve issues. The company’s SAVE program focused on customers who initially wanted to cease their monitoring service for various reasons. Doyle Security was able to re-sign new contracts with 62 percent of the customers.
The central station utilizes some clever programs for motivating operators, some of which are financial-based, some in the form of company recognition and some designed to help operators balance their personal lives with their business lives. Employees are carefully selected, and a software program is used to help screen applicants to identify those who are most compatible for this type of job. Candidates of choice are passed through several tiers of interviews, as well as screened for drugs and checked for criminal background.
When it comes to alarm management and false alarm reduction, the central station uses several different programs combined to have an overall effect. Some of the elements of those programs are enhanced verification, close tracking of accounts that have a certain number of alarms in a set period, and adherence to CP01-standard panels. A false alarm committee works closely with both customers and response agencies to fix problem accounts.
The UL central station has a system in place so that in the event of any type of disaster, all operations would be transferred to a separate monitoring facility. Emergency training of both supervisors and operators takes place regularly and staff is trained to operate manually in the event it is necessary.
During the last year, when many in the industry felt the effects of the recession, Doyle managed to not have any downturn. “While everybody in the world knew what was going on in the economy, we worked really hard on our communication internally. We had open conversations about what might this mean to our business, and what steps we would take. Fortunately, we managed through this time without any downturn and have only continued to grow.” And, it seems, win awards.
For information visit www.GoDoyle.com.
Central Station of the Year Honoree
WEGMANS FOOD MARKETS INC.
Rochester, N.Y. seems to be a great place for central stations, as the city is also the home of this year’s Central Station of the Year Honoree, Wegmans Food Markets Inc. The family owned, 75-store supermarket chain is led by third- and fourth-generation family members: CEO Danny Wegman and his daughters Collen Wegman, president, and Nicole Wegman, vice president of wine.
The company’s core values that encompass respect, care, and quality help to drive the general atmosphere among operators who pitch in for each other to make sure that as a team they fulfill the company’s mission of security and safety.
At this UL-listed, Factory Mutual-approved, and CSAA Five Diamond Certified central station, operators are given a lot of attention in terms of their performance, progress towards their goals, and shared communication about company objectives and accomplishments.
A modular-based training program is offered to central station employees and they are provided with exposure to all of the different departments and facilities. New operators undergo 14 weeks of total training using a wide variety of methods, with regular testing along the way.
In the area of technology, the station offers the leading services, such as central station based access control and video, e-mail alerts, and non-traditional alarm communications as well as non-traditional types of monitoring.
The central station’s false alarm reduction efforts have resulted in a nearly 20 percent reduction in alarms in 2009 compared with 2008. This was accomplished through improved communication with customers who make changes to their facilities, a more aggressive smoke detector cleaning program, and upgrading systems.
Over the past several years, Wegman’s invested more than a million dollars in capital improvements, and operators were given a chance to have input into the appearance, layout, and details of the reconstruction.
This central station does unique types of monitoring, such as road condition and weather alerts, monitoring the opening of trailer doors outside of pre-determined safe zones, refrigerated trailer temperature issues, and managing power outages.
The company has 38,000 employees, but has been ranked one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” the last 13 years, ranking 1st in 2005 and 3rd in 2010. Most recently, Wegman’s was given the 2009 Corporate Stewardship Award by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Last year, the company donated 16 million pounds of food to food banks. Its employee scholarship program has awarded $71 million in college scholarships to more than 22,000 employees since it began in 1984.
Central Station Manager of the Year
Experience in multiple industries makes Greg Hurst ‘a perfect fit of leadership, knowledge, and experience for the job’ at Monitronics.
Central Station Manager of the Year
Name: Greg Hurst
Company: Monitronics Security, Dallas
Title: Monitoring Center Manager
Tenure at company: 3 years
Experience: 20 years in multiple industries
Last year, Greg Hurst was the Central Station Manager of the Year Honoree. He took the award, went back to work even more driven, and was rewarded with the win this year.
When looking at his management skills, Hurst says, “Team building and seeing myself as an active member of the team first helps drive me and makes the team better as a whole.
“Influencing and reminding the team of the important role they play in the security of lives and property has always been at the forefront of my mind and actions. While a large percentage of alarms may be false, the ones that are not false require a higher profile and can be used as an excellent motivational force. We publish a weekly newsletter to the company that always lists a “Shining Star” that outlines and explains the alarm activation, what went wrong, and how we were there to make a difference. Reading these frequently and praising the team daily when the actual alarms occur helps ensure an overall higher quality in all alarm monitoring and a sense of personal job fulfillment.”
Additionally, Hurst implements various programs and activities that keep the operators engaged and encouraged, such as monthly meetings to go over performance metrics; opportunities to discuss career advancement; getting operators involved in charitable projects such as food drives and holiday toy drives; contests among the central station staff; and special events. His efforts have led to a substantial reduction in operator turnover.
Hurst considers his 20 years of varied experience to be important to his job today. “Having experience inside a patrol car as well as an operator in the 911 communications and dispatch center has been invaluable to me. It allows me to understand both sides of the emergency dispatch and relate experience and understanding to my team.”
Within the industry, Hurst has been active with the CSAA, as a seminar presenter as well as an active member of a working group. Within the community, he has proven a sustained commitment to helping local charities and other organizations that help people in need.
Hurst introduced some best practices including a way for central station operators to select a group of their peers to represent their views, requests, interests and concerns to management. He also was highly effective in understanding trending and signal volume and streamlined the entire report process by which all central station statistics are compiled and viewed. These reports are now used hundreds of times each day and are an essential part of the company’s daily operations.
Hurst successfully managed Monitronics’ transition from two monitoring platforms at its central station to just one platform in 2008. The conversion required moving 720,000 accounts from one platform to another. Hurst won the Monitronics Outstanding Leadership Award in 2008.
Central Station Manager of the Year Honorees
Suzie Nye, AvantGuard Monitoring Centers
Suzie Nye served as both an operator and manager at AvantGuard Monitoring Centers, Ogden, Utah, before rising to her current position as vice president of operations. Described as “a natural,” the company states that, “Nye plays a major role in all issues involving our central stations. She is a key member of AvantGuard’s executive team, and is a part of every decision that is made.” With 20 years of central station experience at the company, Nye is credited with helping the company grow exponentially and reach previously unattainable levels of service.
Nye is also an active member of CSAA, as well as an active member of many local burglar and fire alarm associations. She heads up a neighborhood watch organization and participates in meetings with city council and the mayor. Nye implemented enhanced call verification as standard operating procedure within the central station as well. Add the fact that Nye developed the company’s monitoring centers’ proprietary, four-tiered training programs from the ground up, overhauled the company’s hiring practices, introducing more efficient practices and processes and successfully managed the merge of the company’s two central station facilities in Ogden, Utah and Tacoma, Wash., and you can see why Nye has the distinction of being a repeat CSAA Central Station Manager of the Year Honoree award winner.
Amy Jo Feliciano,
EPS, Engineered Protection Systems Inc.
Amy Jo Feliciano, who has worked at EPS for 16 years, was first hired as a third-shift operator. She was quickly promoted to second-shift supervisor, and later to service dispatcher. In her fifth year with the company, she was promoted to her current role as central station operations manager. EPS says about Feliciano, “Since she began leading our central station team, we’ve experienced less turnover, exponential improvements in operator performance, and the development of the most comprehensive, state-of-the-art central station facility in this half of the state.”
Feliciano is an effective scheduler who manages to properly staff the central station, while accommodating the family and personal needs of operators, too. She reviews staff quarterly so they know where they stand.
A few years ago, during a multi-million dollar overhaul and redesign of the central station facility, Feliciano played a lead role in project design, the hardware and technology specs and team management throughout the process. She was on-call 24 hours a day for the better part of a year and led the largest and most successful undertaking in the history of the company. In 2009, Feliciano also helped EPS successfully change its telephone system software.
As she successfully manages so many facets of the central station, it is no wonder that EPS calls her “the lifeblood of our company.”
Central Station Support Person of the Year
Experience, the ability to remain calm in any situation, and always having a plan of action make Phil Arnold a strong support for Alarmco’s entire staff.
Central Station Support Person
of the Year
Name: Phil Arnold
Company: Alarmco Inc., Las Vegas
Title: IT Support Manager
Tenure at the company: 2 years in September
Experience: 19 years in the security industry
Phil Arnold is the central point of contact for all of the technical issues at Alarmco Inc., Las Vegas. His main responsibilities are to provide technical support to the entire company on all issues related to IT. In the central station he provides support for both the automation software and hardware, including receivers.
His level of knowledge and 20 years of experience span both the IT and security industries. Arnold has held jobs as a technician on projects such as large commercial burglar and fire alarm systems, access control and CCTV. Because of his IT experience, he has unique insight into IP-based products now being used in the security industry. This has become a strong support for the staff. He routinely helps technicians with products.
“I started out installing for large commercial fire alarm and access control and years ago I saw things were headed towards an increase in IT,” Arnold explains. “While the industry is behind the IT world, which is beneficial to us, it will only continue to grow, and that prompted me to get more involved in the IT specifics.”
Alarmco describes Arnold as a “learner.” In addition to his bachelor of science degree in information technology and a master’s degree in information systems, Arnold is currently working towards his MSCE, Network+, and Security+ certifications, as well as holding several manufacturers’ certifications from Notifier, Vicon and AES. Although he no longer installs fire alarms, he still maintains his Nevada Fire certification as well.
One of the improvements Arnold made was relocating the automation equipment into a newly remodeled area that has significantly reduced noise levels inside the call center, providing a better environment for operators. His calm demeanor and willingness to answer questions and address concerns creates an environment that has encouraged operators to report on issues no matter how small.
“The biggest part of my job is remaining calm when everything is falling apart,” Arnold says. “The calmness that I exude around my internal and external customer tends to alleviate stress in situations and help us resolve them.”
Arnold isn’t afraid to help resolve issues. On more than one occasion he took the lead in dealing with customers who were not satisfied with the level of service they were receiving. For example, at a company where a DVR system connected to the customer’s point of sale (POS) system, other technicians had spent months trying to get it working correctly. Arnold spoke to the owner, coordinated the POS and the DVR and got the system functioning within two days.
Arnold’s ability to form a plan, stay on point, deliver on time and quantify a need is amazing, the company describes.
“My favorite thing about my job is that it is never routine,” Arnold says. “Of course certain things are routine, but overall not one day is the same.” It is the perfect outlook of a support person who needs to be ready for anything.
Central Station Support Person of the Year Honoree
Lori Kibler, ISG Special Support, Vector Security
Lori Kibler’s primary role is to support all of the software applications used by central station employees. This includes the business systems, financial system and monitoring system. She is the key person who develops new processes. She plans all upgrades of operating systems and software systems.
She also serves as the primary trainer for many of the software applications, including creating the training manuals and hosting webinar sessions for training.
Kibler has worked at the company for nearly 20 years and held her current position for eight years. She started as a full-time executive assistant, but quickly showed an aptitude for technology and computer-related projects. In 1997, she became a member of the Information Services Group, and in 2002, she moved to her current position.
Vector says, “Kibler will do anything to assist anyone. She never says ‘no.’ She thinks outside the box. If there is a way to have the automation system perform a task better than a human, she will find the way. She never lets a task be late or go undone, and can be found working remotely from home at all hours of the day and night to get the job done. She takes every issue seriously and perseveres until finding a solution.”
Last year the operation of a dealer program caused a large number of accounts to be placed online. Kibler was instrumental in developing the workflow process to make things go smoothly. She also has worked to increase system performance during high activity periods and helped Vector’s software vendor fix several system problems.
Kibler is responsible for all the software upgrades, including upgrades to the monitoring software. When an upgrade is to take place, she investigates the upgrade in advance, uses a test database to ensure there are not pitfalls, and works with the software company to ensure the upgrades occur during times that will have minimal impact on alarm or business processing. Kibler has also instituted automatic updates, saving many manpower hours.
Central Station Operator of the Year
Lyndsay Marcell’s commitment to procedure and belief in her role as an operator achieves the ultimate goal – saving lives.
Central Station Operator of the Year
Name: Lyndsay Marcell
Company: ADT Security Services,
Kansas City Central Station
Title: Emergency Dispatch Operator
Tenure at the company: 8 months
At the time of her application, Lyndsay Marcell, winner of the Central Station Operator of the Year, had been working at the central station for only eight months, with no security background, although she had prior experience in retail sales and customer interaction that she felt would be beneficial on the job as an operator. Little did the central station know at the time of her hire that Marcell would be instrumental in saving a life.
As ADT Security Services relates, during a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, despite the customer’s insistence that it was a false alarm, Lyndsay followed the training and company standards she had received to convince the customer that canceling the fire department on a carbon monoxide alarm was of great consequence. Ultimately, the fire department found lethal levels of CO within the home and saved the customer’s life.
“You don’t see many carbon monoxide alarms, and when you do get them, they are almost never a false alarm, so I knew that it meant something was there,” Marcell recounts. “ADT has a specific procedure to follow on every alarm. When you get the alarm, you follow the procedure and it gives you confidence in the actions you are taking â€” and it helped me insist that I needed to call the fire department.”
ADT Security Services points out, “In the sometimes hectic and busy environment that is inherent to a central station, it can be easy for an operator to accept the customer’s cancellation and move onto the next activity. This operator’s pride and belief in her role to the community and as a life safety professional outweighed the desire to move on to the next event and as a result stands as an example to all central station operators of the importance of their own commitment to the safety of our customers.”
Bob Tucker, director, Public Relations, ADT Security Services, Boca Raton, Fla., later spoke with the family whose lives Marcell saved. “When I visited the family at their home in Utah in December, they were overwhelmingly grateful. They recognized the work Lyndsay had done, her persistence and persuasiveness, and just how dangerous carbon monoxide really is.
“Lyndsay epitomizes the role our operators take every day. They come prepared to do their jobs well and be ready to help save lives. We are up to 50,000 alarm signals a day throughout eight centers in the United States and Canada, and each one of those signals could potentially help save a life.”
Marcell is described as always prompt, always carrying a positive demeanor, and providing outstanding customer experiences. She frequently volunteers to work overtime or fill-in as needed when customer activity demands it. She is described as proactive, willing to discuss best practices with co-workers to improve the entire team’s performance.
“I’ve taken this job seriously all along, but it does become a routine. Then when you get an alarm like this, where it is so real and it involves a life, it just helps you act faster and even more intentionally,” Marcell says. “I haven’t done a job before where you are helping protect people and keeping families safe. There really is something so rewarding in that.”
Central Station Operator of the Year Honorees
Diane Cowgill, Central Station Operator/Records, Alarmco
Diane Cowgill is described as “one of those employees who listens, pays attention and understands the flow of the company’s internal workings.” Since Cowgill began at Alarmco Inc., Las Vegas, in 1996, she has served as service dispatcher, fire dispatcher and records operator.
Cowgill can back up every position associated with central station, as well as in-house service and even several administrative positions. She holds the CSAA Level One Operator Certificate, the CSAA Advanced Operator Certificate and the SIA Trained Central Station Operator Certificate. She works weekends to cover for operators on vacation and can help cover with no notice.
In a specific situation, Cowgill stepped into the middle of a commercial account that had contentious partners and was a legal minefield. Each partner wanted to separately and singularly control the business’ security system. This operator stepped in and took charge of this confused mess, bringing in other decision makers, and worked out a solution that led to a satisfied customer.
Wendy Allerding, Central Station Operator, EPS, Engineered Protection Systems Inc.
Wendy Allerding, CSAA Central Station Operator of the Year Honoree, did not come to her employer with alarm industry experience, but she was experienced in customer service, and, as her employer said, “had a unique ability to multi-task with a smile.” In the 4.5 years Allerding has been with the company, she has had only five absences. Although she lives 50 minutes away from work, she still reports to work on time every day.
Allerding is credited with understanding the tasks that need to be done, and makes sure those tasks are completed while dispatching with minimal errors. EPS emphasizes her great customer service skills and commitment to following through on every phone call. She goes out of her way to help the customer by asking questions to ensure she understands the full scope of their inquiries, according to the company. Allerding initially began on second shift, but when she transferred to first shift, EPS says she quickly adapted to the increased traffic and heavy workflow.